Howard Emerson “Em” Wright, Pilot

18th SOS, Da Nang and Phan Rang, 1969-70

Howard “Em” Wright was born June 4, 1929 in Fort Madison, Iowa and passed away April 2, 2009. Em attended Fort Madison Public High in 1947, then on to Coe College, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa graduating June 1951 and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant from their Air Force ROTC program. Em also received a Master’s Degree from Boston University. Em was Detachment Commander at Da Nang from the fall of 1969 through Jan 1970, then Wing Gunship Officer at Phan Rang until fall 1970.

When asked Em about his most memorable missions, Em’s reply was, “One mission I remember was one night working the “trail” and we had truck traffic in our sights and were firing when the gunner in our left clamshell door came on the intercom and said “tracers break right” and almost simultaneously the gunner in the right clamshell door said “tracers break left”. I put the ship almost up on a wing and dropped about 500 feet. The tracers crossed above us. We decided that some radar had been brought further south than intel was aware of and left the area.”

Em retired as a Colonel in 1981 at Wright-Patterson AFB after a full career with assignments in Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Germany, France, and Boston including several bases such as Griffiss AFB, Rome, NY; Pentagon; Kirtland AFB, New Mexico; Vietnam; Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and Andrews AFB, MD. His final position was Commander of the Foreign Technology Division at Wright- Patterson, retiring in 1981. He taught AF Junior ROTC at Edmond High School.

Em’s awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, and Bronze Star.

Jeremy sent us word that his time was short, and Jeff Baker got the chance to talk with Em and reminisce a bit about their time in Stingers before he died. Em, known as (and fondly called) “Grumps” by his kids, grandson and nephews, is survived by his wife Carol (Cay), daughters Debbie (Jeremy’s mother) and Becky, sons David and Paul, and twelve grandchildren, including Jeremy Westby.